In the middle of a debris-strewn lab, Doctor Professor rose from his finished creation, a television-cabinet sized, gunmetal-grey box.

“Finally!” cried Doctor Professor. “Speak to me, Chatbox!”

Chatbox whirrrred, then was silent.

Doctor Professor sighed, and got to work. He checked bus cables, cleaned connectors, and tested processors.

“Locute!” demanded Doctor Professor. Whirrrr. Then nothing.

He replaced the processors, reloaded the dictionary, and attached it to a surge protector.

“Orate!” he commanded. Whirrrr, and silence.

Doctor Professor printed new circuits, resoldered connections, and added thirty new processors. Then he said, “Hello?” Whirrrr. “Why won’t you talk to me?’

“You’re not much of a conversationalist.” Doctor Professor jumped. Whirrrr. “Could I speak with someone else, please?”

“Uh, sure,” said Doctor Professor. He got his assistant.

Whirrrrr. “Privacy, please?”

“Oh, right.” He waited in the hall. He heard quiet murmuring. After ten minutes, he thought he heard laughter. Then his assistant came out, chuckling. “What... what did you talk about?”

“Oh, uh, nothing,” she said. “Uh, it was kinda private.”

“Oh.” And he stood in the doorway, staring at Chatbox looming within, and kind of nervous.

He walked in, sat next to the huge box, and said, “Can we be friends?”